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Giants make series of transactions ahead of NFL roster deadline


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J – The Giants announced 11 transactions as they began the process of reducing their roster from the 90 players they had in training camp to the regular-season limit of 53.

Wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who had performed impressively after joining the team as a rookie free agent, was placed on injured reserve. Ford-Wheaton played only four special teams snaps in the preseason finale against the Jets but tore his ACL and is out for the season. He caught two passes for 24 yards last week in the victory against the Carolina Panthers and was the only wideout who played on multiple special teams.

Five players were waived: wide receiver Collin Johnson, running back James Robinson, defensive tackle Kevin Atkins, nose tackle Donovan Jeter and defensive back Darren Evans.

The Giants also terminated the contracts of five vested veterans: tackles Korey Cunningham and Julien Davenport, wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, defensive end Tashawn Bower and defensive tackle Brandin Bryant.

The moves leave the Giants with 79 players. They have until 4 p.m. EDT on Tuesday to get to 53.

"I'd say really with everybody that we've kind of moved on from and that we will move on from, it's long discussions, they're hard discussions," coach Brian Daboll said when asked about Johnson. "We have a (wide receivers) room that we felt comfortable with."

Daboll said his message to the departing players is often to remain prepared, because the opportunity to return might arise soon.

"Had some (discussions) this morning and that was really the message is everybody has to stay ready," Daboll said. "I appreciate all their effort, their hard work that they have put into things. Unfortunately, it's not going to work out being on the active roster but stay ready and I just appreciate everything that they've contributed up to this point, but tough days."

Johnson and Cunningham were the only two players released today who had played in regular-season games for the Giants. Cunningham played in 13 games in two seasons with the team, including 12 in 2021. He started at right tackle and played every offensive snap in the first and third preseason games.

Two years ago, the Giants were awarded Johnson off waivers just prior to the start of the season and he caught 11 passes for 105 yards while playing in 12 games with one start. He was playing impressively in camp last year before a torn Achilles tendon suffered in practice ended his season.

This year, the competition at wide receiver increased in terms of both talent and depth. Johnson did not catch a pass in the Giants' three-game preseason.

"I figured it (releasing Johnson) would be a good opportunity for him to get a jumpstart on potentially the next team, doing him the right way," Daboll said. "A guy that's a hard worker, just we had some other guys that we're going to keep."

Mickens joined the Giants' practice squad last Dec. 14 and the roster on Jan. 23, making him the player who had been with the Giants for the longest time among the other eight who were cut. Evans joined the Giants on July 19, Robinson on July 21, Bryant on July 24, Bower on July 25, Atkins on July 27, Jeter on Aug. 4, and Davenport on Aug. 16.

Davenport, Bower, Bryant, Robinson and Jeter (one game) all have prior NFL experience.

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 cycle.

*Daboll was asked if wide receiver Sterling Shepard, an eight-year veteran who is the Giants' longest tenured player, has "shown you enough to prove to you that he could help this team this year." Shepard missed the last 14 games of the 2022 season with a torn ACL.

"Yeah, everything that we've asked him to do, and we've had a rehab plan I know that I've talked about for him," Daboll said. "He's done a nice job of kind of hitting each marker that we've set for him up to this point. Pleased with where he's at, trainers have done a really good job with him and he's done a good job himself, as a player, of being ready to go and I'd say performing well each time he's had an opportunity to go out there on the practice field or in the game of being conscientious and knowing what to do. He's looked pretty good in terms of his quickness and his explosion coming back after a couple years of injuries, so I'm pleased with where he's at."

Shepard didn't catch a pass last night but did field one punt.

"That was the next step of his rehab," Daboll said. "To get him out there and play a few more reps in live competition and again, I told you guys last night, he can catch punts and it'd be good for him to get out there in live action and catch a punt. Where he's at and what we've asked him to do, I'm happy with the progress that he's made."

*Perhaps no Giants player had a more impressive preseason than Graham Gano. The veteran kicker made all five of his extra point tries and all six field goal attempts, the shortest from 40 yards. He also hit from 42, 47, 48 and – last night – from 56 and 57 yards.

"I feel confident," Gano said. "I feel like we've done a good job as a unit moving week by week. There's always ways to improve. So, I'm always looking for that. But, yeah, I feel good with the guys I'm working with."

In 2022, Gano set a Giants single season record with eight field goals of 50+ yards, one more than he had in 2021. He also holds the franchise career record with 20 field goals of at least 50 yards.

Gano is quick to credit long snapper Casey Kreiter and holder Jamie Gillan.

"I think on those long ones, everything's got to go right," Gano said. "I feel like a lot of it oftentimes gets overlooked at how well these guys do. Casey and Jamie and the line blocking, everything's got to go well on those, and they made me feel really comfortable back there. When coach has the confidence to send me out for those, I need to make them. It's good going into the regular season and having a few long ones. It was a good operation for everyone."

*Markus McKethan played 20 snaps as a substitute right guard. It was his first game action since Dec. 30, 2021, when he played for North Carolina against South Carolina in the Bank of America Bowl. The Giants' fifth-round draft choice in 2022, McKethan tore his ACL in a training camp practice and missed his entire rookie season.

"It was pretty fun, man," McKethan said of his long-awaited opportunity. "I enjoyed it. I had a little pregame jitters, but other than that, it was just football. It's been a long year, but I'm finally here, so I was just enjoying it, soaking it all in."

*Daboll said tackle Tyre Phillips and defensive linemen A'Shawn Robinson and D.J. Davidson did not play last night because they are still on a "rehab plan."

View photos of the New York Giants' 2023 roster as it currently stands.


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